Opinion

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Because choosing life shouldn’t cost you your job.

I was reading some articles in The Nation, Jezebel, and The Huffington Post recently when something strange happened: I found myself agreeing with what they had to say.

Dude, wake up--you're having a nightmare.

Dude, wake up–you’re having a nightmare.

No, I wasn’t having a nightmare. The articles were about legislation called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. It would require that businesses with fifteen employees or more “make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

While it’s already illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to fire a woman simply because she’s pregnant, the law doesn’t require that practical accommodations be made for expectant moms. And, as Heather Wiseman discovered, that can turn a hard situation into an unbearable one.

In 2007, Wiseman was fired from Walmart for carrying a water bottle on the job. Seven months pregnant, she was instructed by her doctor to remain hydrated after developing a bladder infection. Unfortunately, workplace rules permitted only cashiers to have beverages, and management refused to make an exception. Wiseman sued Walmart and lost, with the store choosing to settle when she filed an appeal.

Wiseman isn’t alone: other women have faced similar hardships, including former UPS driver Peggy Young. When Young became pregnant in 2002, her doctor told her to avoid heavy lifting. Instead of being reassigned to other duties, she was put on unpaid leave – losing her health benefits as a result. This was despite the fact that UPS was willing to reassign employees who had been injured on and even off the work site, along with those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Young contends that the unequal treatment amounted to unlawful discrimination. While two courts have ruled against her, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear her case.

Thus far, neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has categorized pregnancy as a disability for purposes of the ADA. Further, the idea that pregnant women should be considered disabled is both controversial and of dubious historical precedent – two reasons that pregnancy-specific legislation is needed. Similar measures are being considered in Pennsylvania, while a number of other states have already passed them.

Economic pressure is often cited by women who opt to abort (coercive partners are another). By supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pro-lifers can help make choosing life an easier decision. Because while there’s no shortage of nightmares, getting reasonable accommodations for your baby shouldn’t be one of them.

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